By Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union
Before the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was enacted in 2008, commodity prices had been flat for decades, investment in rural America was negligible and the prospect of prosperity for many family farmers seemed like a dream that had been lost. The passage of the RFS was like a shot of adrenaline into the arteries of rural America, boosting commodity prices to sustained levels not seen in generations and igniting investment in rural American jobs. By 2014, the RFS was supporting some 83,949 direct and 295,265 indirect jobs, many in rural America.
Yes, hope had returned to farm country. With the hope of continued prosperity for farmers and weaning the nation off of its dependence on foreign oil, the RFS was hailed by both farmers and consumers, who were saving $.50-$1.50 per gallon of gas at the pump and adding more than $1.7 billion to the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, doubt entered this equation when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to set volume targets for the RFS in 2014. This happened just as both cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels had reached commercial status and were able to offer the greatest potential for environmental benefits.
The delays in issuing volume targets have caused an estimated $13.7 billion gap in capital investment needed to comply with the volume targets set in the statutes that enacted the RFS. The EPA should adhere to Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume targets as set forth in federal law.
And Congress, for its part, should stand back and resist making any changes to the popular fuel law, allowing the full promise of the RFS come to fruition.